Incoming DOJ chief sets probe on DAP

Edu Punay - The Philippine Star
Incoming DOJ chief sets probe on DAP
Incoming justice secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II revealed that his marching orders from incoming president Rodrigo Duterte is to pursue corruption cases and spare no sacred cows.
STAR file photo

MANILA, Philippines – Incoming justice secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II will look into the liabilities of officials of the outgoing Aquino administration over unconstitutional acts under the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).

Apart from corruption, Aguirre said drug cases would also be a priority of the Department of Justice (DOJ) under the new administration.

Aguirre revealed yesterday that his marching orders from incoming president Rodrigo Duterte is to pursue corruption cases and spare no sacred cows.

“We will investigate the DAP and look into the liabilities of officials responsible for it. If evidence warrants, we will file cases in court,” Aguirre said.

He said Duterte, his law school classmate and fraternity brother at San Beda College, had instructed him to apply the law equally regardless of the respondents.

“He told me that charges should be filed no matter who gets hurt. There should be no selective justice,” Aguirre said.

He did not specify any officials who would be covered by the probe, but the grounds had been set by the Supreme Court (SC) when it voided the DAP with finality in February last year.

The high court ruled that acts and practices under DAP, an economic stimulus program meant to address government underspending, violated the doctrine of separation of powers and the provision prohibiting inter-branch transfer of appropriations.

Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio and Associate Justice Arturo Brion tagged President Aquino and Budget Secretary Florencio Abad as the authors of DAP and they could be held liable for the illegal act.

Carpio and Brion said Aquino and Abad are not covered by the doctrine of operative fact and cannot invoke good faith in evading liability for unconstitutional acts. These included the withdrawal of unobligated allotments from implementing agencies and their use as savings prior to the end of the fiscal year as well as the transfer of savings of the executive to augment the funds of agencies outside the department.

The Palace had released some P144.38 billion in DAP funds from 2011 to 2013.

Detained Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, who is facing plunder charges over the pork barrel scam, had claimed that the Palace used DAP to secure the conviction of the late chief justice Renato Corona in his 2012 impeachment trial at the Senate.

Aguirre also believes there is a need for a better and systematic handling of evidence in drug cases.

“Respondents in drug cases get off the hook because of some loopholes in the procedure of handling evidence,” he said.

Aguirre is planning to start the anti-illegal drug campaign at the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor), an attached agency of the DOJ supervising the New Bilibid Prison and other penitentiaries in the country.

“Major drug lords at the Bilibid have managed to manufacture drugs inside the area with the connivance of some BuCor employees. We have to institute more reforms. If we need to replace all the jail guards there, we will,” he said.

He vowed to implement reforms in the DOJ, including possible adjustments in the salary of prosecutors to prevent corruption.

“The DOJ prosecutors are the frontliners. The salary of some of them is not included in the national budget. They just rely on per diem allowances from the local government units.”

Aguirre is considering closing his law firm once he assumes office as DOJ head on July 1.


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